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Is believing in the existence of God reasonable?

As a Catholic I often ask myself if my belief in God is within reason since I cannot explain it in words.

I understand my faith in God to be based on a spiritual conviction rather than on empirical proof. I believe God to be a reality inspite of having no absolute verified foundation for this certainty. I see belief's purpose as a guide to action rather than to simply indicate truth.

I see Christian faith as a  belief-in rather than a belief-that. Just as I have faith in my own self-confidence I have the confidence of faith in the existence of a real entity or phenomenon called 'God'. I see this religious belief-in God as distinct from some particular fundamental religious practice or behaviour.

Of course I also see adherence to my Catholic faith as necessary for moral behaviour. I see its religious practices as serene, comforting, beautiful, and conducive to spiritual experiences such as the need to feel loved. I feel it promotes a sense of community which frees me from spiritual bondage and death.


As a scientist, I try not to "believe in" anything. My own opinions about god (and opinions are all any of us can really have) are based on my own personal religious experiences, and the evidence from science. I find that Buddhism fits better with my world view than Catholicism, but if your opinion is, as mine is, that any religion is necessarily an imperfect understanding of god (because we're limited by our ability to sense and make sense of our universe) then it doesn't really matter which religion you hang your world view on. More important is what that religion brings to the task of creating a better world.

As a student of anthropology I've been struck by the fact that there has never been a truly atheist society (in spite of a few failed attempts to create one in the past couple of centuries). What I gather from this is that there is something in the human animal that requires a belief in some form of religion - an enjoyment of the Catholic rituals is an expression of that need.

Some atheists, Dawkins among them, would say that this primeval urge towards religion is just an accidental byproduct of our natural evolution - a fluke of our brains. My own theory is that we sense the presence of god because we evolved in the presence of god - just as we can sense light, because we evolved in a world full of light (whereas creatures which evolved in darkness have no such sense).

The true nature of god eludes us. But we know what it feels like - it feels like love and compassion and a oneness with the rest of the universe. As long as a person's religion leads them towards love and compassion, I think they are on the right path, regardless of which particular road they've chosen.

But yes - as long as science continues to tell us that the vast overwhelming majority of the universe is made of something we cannot yet comprehend (dark matter, dark energy), believing in god is perfectly reasonable.

I hold that "faith" isn't "belief", but rather "trust". I don't have any particularly strong belief in the specifics of god, and none at all in any particular religious doctrine - but I have a tremendous trust that the universe, and my place in it, is exactly as it should be.
Nicely written. I tend to think any religion is behavior control, which has it's place in one's self and community.
Well, we all need some reason to control our behavior, don't we?
Yes I believe so, or society would be in worse shape than it is already.
My replies are not being registered, I don't know why.

Maybe this will register for you, artkouros.

Thank you for that very detailed reply. Much appreciated. I think I'll have to return to it a few times.
Wow...that is amazingly well said!
I hold that "faith" isn't "belief", but rather "trust".

Ooh, nice. But sometimes rather than being trust in or trust that, it can be... not trust, but optimism despite.
What a nifty reply. Had to read it twice, the second time to reflect.
Really, really appreciate what you have written here. So well articulated and very thought-provoking.
Very well said.
IMHO, faith means hope/belief/trust that there is a higher power, no matter what "name" for which it/he/she is called. I agree with your statement on Christianity being a belief/faith/hope in....and that it is great method of behavior control for life as we know it. So many of the religions have beautiful practices and traditions and I agree that this promotes a sense of sense of community and I also think it promotes or strengthens or reminds self/community behavior control.

Happy New Year !!

Edited at 2016-01-03 15:27 (UTC)
i appreciate greatly what you have written!

"I understand my faith in God to be based on a spiritual conviction rather than on empirical proof."

yes! i think there is something in the human that wants "god" - a deity of some sort - we don't want to be left on our own - each culture fashions an answer to that need

"I see its religious practices as serene, comforting, beautiful, and conducive to spiritual experiences such as the need to feel loved."

ummm if only we could leave it at that.
leave laws - and theology - behind
"religion" should be of the experience not of the mind
the mind has other concerns

there has always been a tension between the church of the theologians and the church of the mystics

theology is a great game to play - but it should not be imposed as required belief

personally, i see the creedal formulations as possible metaphors but not as literal truth - i find those theological formulations of the early councils laughable

for myself - i believe in what i experience - it is not of the mind - intellectually i am probably an a- theist - ah but experience is something else - and i give it a name of my own choosing
Another reply that requires some analysis. Thank you.
For me, as a zoologist, one of the most convincing hints to the existence of God is the DNA molecule and how it works.
Not being a scientist of any kind, could you elaborate a little please.
The complexity of DNA, the way it reproduces itself, the way it is involved in the creation of proteins...I look at it and think "How could this have arisen by chance?"
Thank you.
I take the fact that it did arise by chance as an indication of just how elegant the universe is. At the core of reality are simple rules, that give rise to myriad complexities, just as a simple pendulum caught between two attractors will produce startlingly complex and beautiful patterns.

But then, I'm a molecular geneticist, so I'm a little biased.
Oh, I get all that and I'm still not convinced of the random origin of things - those simple rules for example.
"we sense the presence of god because we evolved in the presence of god - just as we can sense light, because we evolved in a world full of light."

Beautiful. Beautiful.
A belief in a God[dess] is no more reasonable than life itself...

which is to say, not at all. But that's never stopped anyone before.
It so assuring to know that we have scientists, even molecular geneticists, who can never be wrong.
Scoff all you like, but I'll still take independently reproducible results that have been peer-reviewed and studied for years over unquestioning acceptance of bronze-age fables compiled, re-interpreted and translated multiple times over the centuries.

The universe doesn't need a god to function, nor does it care what we believe. Reality is what it is, any errors we make in understanding it are irrelevant. But I am sorry for you if you can't find beauty in nature without attributing it to your god.

As for me being wrong, it is to laugh! Yes, I can and am, but there are hundreds of thousands of scientists and we have verifiable methods to catch our mistakes, chiefly that we can't all be wrong at the same time... nor are we the ones claiming infallibility. [you would have to look to Rome for that]

The Universe is a vastly wonderful, scary, fascinating and mind-boggling thing... saying 'god did it' simply belittles it, as the real answer is much more interesting. Try looking up the real answer as to why DNA exists the way it does for example. You'll be amazed at how elegant it is.
There are billions of believers!

It is BECAUSE I believe in a God that I love and appreciate the wonder and beauty of nature.
and billions of people believed the world was flat too... belief does not trump science. Opinion is not verifiable and testable fact. But where you get enough scientists you will get one or more of them who set out to try and disprove what is generally accepted as being true, simply because that is their duty, to attempt to disprove or prove any theory. And if they succeed it becomes the accepted truth.

and I don't believe in God because I appreciate the wonder and beauty of understanding nature.

But in the face of the infinite, you are welcome to believe whatever you like as long if it gives you comfort. Personally, I'll just stick with trying to understand it, rather than drawing limits on understanding by saying 'God did it, no further questions needed' the way some people do. [no, not implying you do that, but saying it's used that way at times and it annoys me.]

Edited at 2016-01-04 13:39 (UTC)